Dec 01, 2021 2 mins, 20 secs

“I think people are not enough afraid of him — they don’t think he can make it,” said Gaspard Gantzer, a former strategy and communications adviser to the last Socialist president of France, François Hollande.

It is this Frenchness that Zemmour wants to preserve, and what has led him to label Islam as “incompatible with France.” On a recent visit to his home suburb televised by TV channel CNews, he confronted a woman who was wearing a headscarf. .

Hamid Chabani, a deputy mayor of Drancy and the founder of a Franco-Berber cultural center in the suburb, said Zemmour’s rhetoric was dangerous and risked emboldening the most extreme members of the Muslim community in France.

“It’s Islamism that’s not compatible with France, it’s the terrorists who aren’t compatible with France,” he said in his office in Drancy’s municipal building, which is framed by a neat square complete with bright bedding plants and a fountain.

“If he wins, the risk is civil war,” Chabani said, adding that he doubted Zemmour would win.

Michelle Ardinge, a French citizen born in Madagascar who now runs a funeral home in the suburb, said she agreed with most of what Zemmour said on immigration

He was born in Montreuil in the eastern suburbs of Paris; his parents had moved to metropolitan France from Algeria — a colony that gained its independence in 1962 after 132 years of French rule. 

Zemmour has said his parents “idolized” France and that he and his family, whose surname means olive tree in Berber, successfully assimilated to the French way of life

As for his own beliefs, Zemmour has said he’s doubtful about the existence of God but that he goes to the synagogue when he wants to re-immerse himself in the rites of his childhood and to remember his parents. 

He has shocked many with his claims that France’s wartime Vichy regime, which teamed up with the country’s Nazi occupiers, “protected” French Jews while handing over foreign ones. 

In 1995, then-President Jacques Chirac acknowledged that France had “handed over those under its protection to their executioners,” finally owning up to the country’s role in the Vel d’Hiv round-up, a mass arrest of Jews by French police in 1942. 

For Serge Klarsfeld, a historian and Nazi hunter, it is what Zemmour says about Muslims that is most alarming. 

A recent poll found that 2 in 3 French people are concerned that a “great replacement” could happen in France. 

Press contacts around Zemmour did not respond or declined to field requests for comment regarding allegations that the TV pundit’s speech is racist, sexist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic, as well as clarification about his run-ins with the French justice system

Sitting on the terrasse of a Parisian cafe, the 22-year-old former law student described Zemmour as “the brains” of the French right and said he was the only person capable of synthesizing the working-class electorate of Le Pen, with those who usually vote for the conservative Les Republicains. 

“He wants to keep ideology away from the classroom,” Bessières said of Zemmour, adding that Zemmour differentiates between teaching and raising children

A recent poll found that he is the most rejected political personality in France, with 70 percent of eligible voters considering him “racist,” 66 percent “misogynist” and 67 percent considering him “dangerous.” Zemmour has denied being a misogynist or racist. 

“It is necessary to refuse the language that the media imposes,” Zemmour said recently

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